Post #571 It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

May 13, 2018 at 3:12 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Nope, not Christmas, although that’s pretty special.  I’m talking about the time of year when fresh, farm-to-table produce starts to become available.  Usually at the start of the season you’ll see small zucchini and mounds of green beans.  Shortly after, the tomatoes start showing up, and before you know it, going to a farmer’s market is a bonanza of fresh fruits and veggies.  We just bought a dehydrator, and today we’re drying oranges to make pot pourri.  But I’m anticipating the mounds of things we’re going to dry in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, what to do with the great produce?

Well, obviously, side dishes become the stars.  Think mac and cheese with fresh veggies in it, and casseroles swimming in sauce and cut veggies.  Or my personal favorite, salad.

Remember recently I wrote that I love the simple flavors of food?  Salad is the epitome of that.  Once in a while, I get tired of salad, but not too often.  When I was growing up, salad followed the same formula:  chopped or shredded iceberg lettuce, diced or wedged tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, and sliced onions or scallions.  Toss and chill, then serve in bowls with your favorite dressing.  In those days, mine was Italian or French.  I’ve evolved since then.  In both dressing preferences, and how I build a salad.

Nowadays, salad is mainly a collection of small-cut veggies tossed together.  Doesn’t matter what kind as long as they’re fresh.  Also, because of personal preference, I like cheese in my salad, and as often as not, I have some sort of protein in it too.  I’m always looking through magazines and cookbooks to catch other people’s ideas of salads.

And I found one yesterday as I was thumbing through my new copy of the Cook’s Country TV Show Cookbook which includes every recipe featured on the show for the first ten years.  I’m making it today, but I’m so jazzed about it, I thought I’d share the salad now.

It’s called Chinese Chicken Salad.

  • 2 oranges
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Asian chile-garlic sauce
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seed oil
  • 4 medium-large chicken breasts
  • 2 cups of thin sliced romaine lettuce hearts
  • 6 cups of thin sliced Napa cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 cup salted dry roasted nuts
  • 1-2 bunches scallion, chopped

Slice rind and pith off oranges and cut sections into small bowl.  From leftover orange membrane, squeeze 1/4 cup of juice into small bowl.  Combine orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce, ginger, sugar, and chile-garlic sauce in a bowl until well blended.

Put 1/2 cup of the mixture into a large skillet.  Whisk sesame oil and vegetable oil into remaining orange mixture and set aside.  Bring orange mixture in skillet to a boil over high heat and add chicken.  Reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook or 10-15 minutes, turning once half way through.  Chicken should read 160 on a thermometer.  Move chicken to a plate and rest for 5-10 minutes.

After chicken has rested, boil pan juices until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 3-5 minutes and set aside.  Use two forks and shred chicken to bite-sized pieces.  Off heat, add chicken, any accumulated juices, and two tablespoons of marinade to skillet and toss chicken to coat then let sit for ten minutes.

While the chicken is sitting, prepare the vegetables and toss with remaining vinaigrette in a large bowl.  Transfer to a serving platter and place oranges on top.  Scatter chicken over top and serve.

Now, because I can’t leave well enough alone, let me tell you what I did with it.

I used already cooked chicken that I had on hand.  I made the vinaigrette per instructions without cooking the chicken in it.  I added fresh asparagus to the mix.  I put in more cilantro than is called for.  Then, at the end, I added the fried crispy noodles that come in a can that I sprinkled over the chicken along with a few sesame seeds.

Salads can be complicated with layers and layers of specially prepared veggies and flavorings.  Or they can be as simple as shredded lettuce.

When I was a teenager, we had a type of salad that has come back into popularity.  It’s called a Wedge salad, although back in the day it was just a salad.

Take a full head of iceberg lettuce and peel off the few outer layers so the lettuce is clean and fresh.  Cut off the stem but leave the core.  Cut the whole head into the number of wedges you need and place each wedge into a small bowl slighter larger than the wedge.  Dress the wedge with anything you like.  As a teenager, for me, it was just plain old Italian dressing.  Nowadays, it’s a whole recipe of things, starting with ranch dressing (which I loathe) and adding bacon chips, bleu cheese, etc.  You eat your way down starting with the sweet inner layers.  Good stuff.

 

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